WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
“After Walking 1,000 Km for Justice, Indian Expat in Dubai Reaches Home with Sushma Swaraj’s Help.” – The Better India
“’Worse Than Hell’ This Is How Indian Migrant Workers Returning From Saudi Recall Their Condition.” – India Times
“Hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar ‘unpaid’, to meet Indian ambassador.” – Hindustan Times
To us, these are just a few headlines that we read in the papers; then we yell about why people leave India for Gulf, empathise with their condition for a few minutes and then forget all about it until the next headline is printed. We see only what is printed, only what is visible on the surface; we never get to know the back-story. This is what Nikhil Ramteke attempts to do with his book “The 365 Days” – tell us about the lives of migrant workers in the Gulf, the reasons for their migration, the problems they face in this land of opportunities and the effect it has on them and their family – through the eyes of a migrant Keralite, Shijukutty.
“The desert rewards the hapless worker with an ailing body and, worse, an afflicted mind. So, a lot of people mostly make a piffling, but earn a lifetime of suffering.”
It is a period of mass migration of Keralites to the Gulf to seek greener pastures. About 10 percent of Kerala’s population or about 2.4 million Malayalis are migrant workers in the Gulf. Not to be left behind, and to give a better life to his wife Dhanya and son Sooraj, Shijukutty, a fisherman from Vizhinjam, Kerala, too decides to go to Dubai as a construction worker. The life of Shijukutty in Dubai, narrated in the first person, gives us a vivid understanding of the daily life of a migrant worker in the Middle East – cramped rooms, putrid bathrooms, inedible food, appalling working conditions, and the pitiable salaries. Shijukutty narrates about how naïve migrants are fleeced by recruitment agencies in India, and middlemen and hiring companies in the Gulf. The only consolation he has are his roommates, a mixed bag of characters – Thavamani, Jabbar Chettan, Santosh, Saiful and Chacko.
Nikhil Ramteke’s coherent writing style makes the reading very real and you become a part of the story. It is like watching the events and characters real-time, in front of your eyes. The conversations between Shijukutty and his roommates are at times hilarious and at times disturbing. The numerous characters arouse a plethora of emotions within you and you start feeling for them, pinning for them and praying for them. Every page of “The 365 Days” makes you shudder at the thought of migrating to the Gulf.
Will Shijukutty strike riches in this land of gold? Or will it change his perspective towards life? Read “The 365 Days” to find out.